“Planned obsolescence stimulates demand by encouraging purchasers to buy sooner if they still want a functioning product”.
The Wikipedia definition rings true with a lot of manufacturing these days and has certainly struck a chord with my cycling purchases of late.
The internet is awash with reviews but I am beginning to wonder if people’s expectations of what is an acceptable lifespan of a product is influenced by our throw away society who must always have the latest model, a constant demand for low prices and manufacturers balance sheets trying to increase profits by value engineering.
Three products recently have fallen below my expectations of what should be an acceptable standard of performance or lifespan and while in Halfords product review terms I would identify as
“Attitude to Shopping: Quality Seeker – I’d rather spend a little extra on something if I know its going to last”
Sadly the paying a little extra is no guarantee of longevity.
The first product is tyres, although to be fair I think you can substitute quite a few of the manufacturers it happened to be Continental that I chose. In April after reading so many positive reviews I fitted a set of GP4000s tyres that have now in less than 2000 miles suffered 11 punctures, despite running at the recommended pressure the tyres have cut up badly to the extent that I have been forced to change them through lack of confidence in the product. Probably seduced by the Vectran layer for added puncture protection, black chilli compound for extra grip and the description as a race tyre I am of the opinion that the latter two claims put them in the same category as F1 car tyres in that you should not expect long life performance and durability. So two thousand miles for a set of tyres, not an acceptable amount of mileage in my book, nearly all on Hampshire roads and since April no real bad weather to contend with. I have now fitted Continental Gatorskin Hardshell and this will hopefully take me through the winter period and I will be keeping a detailed record of how they perform and the mileage covered.
The second product saw a replacement chain within 2000 miles. The wear gauge registering 75% called for a new chain and a SRAM PC 1051 for less than £20 seemed a bargain but in the bikes of my youth I cannot ever remember changing a chain. Granted old fashioned chains were a lot wider and probably made of thicker steel section but is it really beyond modern engineering to produce a product with a bit more longevity. Again internet forums are awash with advice on chain care and all manner of expensive cleaning devices to prolong service life are available but I find it depressing that I have to go to these lengths when my old dad just used to get out the oil can and lather on a bit more Castrol gear oil every Sunday and chain wear was unheard of.
The comparative cost of producing chains is probably a few pounds and given my SRAM chain came with a 51% saving on RRP from Chain Reaction Cycles this seems a good indicator that profit margins seems to be placed way above quality and from a manufacturing point of view why not, after all rather than never needing a replacement chain in my youth I am now up to three a year, nice work if you can get it.
The third product giving me grief at the moment is courtesy of Garmin, and in particular my Garmin Edge(s). My original 705 went back under warranty for exchange when it refused to re-charge and subsequently I upgraded to an 800, gifting the 705 to my son.
That was in June and to date I have had a replacement cadence sensor and two weeks ago the same problem manifested itself again. A call to customer services resulted in a temporary fix that required a factory reset after every ride but continuing problems came to a head at the weekend when not only was the cadence information not available but my city navigator SD mapping card failed to be recognised. The call to customer services stacked me in the usual queue, thank goodness it was a freephone number but once connected they quickly suggested I return the unit for exchange.
While I applaud the customer service I am concerned that the warranty on the new unit is only valid until the warranty expiry date on the original unit. My personal statistics on these units show a 100% failure rate within the warranty period, not a figure that instills confidence that the units will enjoy a long trouble-free lifespan.
I am sure many reading this will have enjoyed trouble-free cycling using the products mentioned, I do not believe I am a particularly hard user, my bikes are well maintained and I always check and adhere to specification instructions so I am left to conclude that planned obsolescence now plays a major part in product engineering.
If any company out there would like a Beta tester for cycling products I would be happy to test and review their products.